How to Style a Bomber Jacket

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Originally made out of heavy-duty leather, this bulky piece of outerwear has gone through an immense amount of changes. Today, the former pilot jacket comes in almost every variety you can think of and we’ll take you through the different types you can buy and how you should be wearing them.

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What Is A Bomber Jacket?

A bomber can be identified by its ribbed cuffs and hem, front zip closure and defined neckline. They come in a range of styles and fits, from the standard waist length design to longline, and even some with a hood.

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How To Wear a Bomber Jacket

There are plenty of different styles to choose from when it comes to your bomber jacket. So to make it a little easier for you, we’re going to break it down into a few categories you can look at before picking up your next piece.

Green Bomber Jacket

Make your bomber stand out in the right way by pairing it with a monochrome or neutral palette. The great thing about this piece is that the most basic outfit like a white tee and jeans can be layered underneath and your look is instantly improved, without having to add the bulk of a coat or jumper. This doesn’t mean that your bomber has to come in a crazy pattern or loud colour to stand out. Even a traditional sage green or light tan colour jacket looks stylish with a white shirt.

alpha industries green bomber jacket men
PHOTO CREDIT: Alpha Industries

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Casual

For a casual look, wear your jacket with a pair of distressed or ripped denim jeans. In colder months, you could team it with a sweatshirt or add an open denim or plaid shirt. Style with a beanie hat to finish it off. Go for a pair of skinny jeans as the slightly oversized fit on your top half wouldn’t compliment baggier pants. When it comes to footwear, consider a pair of boat shoes and you’re on to a winner.

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Smart

It may seem unlikely considering its background in men’s military style jackets, but the bomber jacket can look great with formal wear. Slim fit denim jeans or trousers cropped to your ankle work well worn with a formal shirt underneath. Now you want to stick to monochrome or neutral colours so that it’s your bomber jacket that’s making the statement.

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Smart Casual

A dress code that sits directly between the two can be a tricky one to do well. But if you take the right elements from both styles, you’re onto a winner. Since your jacket is on the casual side, pair with a formal shirt as you would for the smart style. Then bring an element of casual back in by wearing relaxed trousers such as chinos. In terms of footwear, simple leather trainers would work well, creating an overall smart yet relaxed look.

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Sports Luxe

Sports luxe has been gaining momentum and has become one of the most stylish looks out there. Throw your jacket on over a long tee, polo or sweatshirt and pair with relaxed trousers such as joggers. Another way to wear this style would be to layer a hoodie underneath your jacket. Choose a hoodie in a darker colour such as black or navy for best results.

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Leather Bomber Jacket for Men

For a more contemporary look choose a leather bomber jacket with rough outfit detailing such as worn sneakers, ripped jeans and faded tee. You could also take style tips from the skinheads who first adopted the bomber jacket as part of their subculture in the 60s and 70s. Wear your t-shirt tucked into cuffed jeans and style with Doc Martens. This look also works with denim and sage green nylon/polyester bombers.

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Print, Pattern & Camo

Wearing print or pattern will suggest an awareness of current influences. Because of the busy nature of print, it is best to keep the jacket simple in its silhouette – no fussy pockets or hardware. This style works best on lightweight jackets such as nylon, polyester or silk. Let your printed bomber take centre stage by keeping the rest of your outfit plain with clean lines. The print will make sure you look less than ordinary.

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Longline

A slight twist on the traditional bomber, the long bomber jacket is a recent update made popular by brands such as Rick Owens and Fear of God. The length of your bomber is the statement here. Treat it like a top coat and layer as you would a cropped bomber jacket, i.e. with T-shirts, jeans and sweatshirts. The advantage to the long line bomber jacket is that it is more tailored in its fit, making it less bulky than the cropped version.

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Varsity

The varsity jacket is another variation on the flight jacket style. It is similar in silhouette and both feature ribbed collars, cuffs and hem. However, the varsity jacket usually has popper fastenings rather than a zip and can also be identified by its contrast sleeve colour to the body of the jacket.

This style originates from the American school system but because of its similarities to the bomber, the same styling rules apply. Predominantly made out of wool, the varsity jacket is more popular during the colder months. We advise that you keep your hoodies away from this jacket unless you want to look like a student. Instead, toughen up the outfit with ripped or distressed jeans and a plain tee.

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What to Consider Before Buying a Bomber Jacket

A few quick tips before we get started:

  1. Fit: Possibly the most important aspect, the fit of the jacket should be similar to that of a tailored blazer – snug on the shoulders and slim through the sleeves and body. However, be careful not to go too tight as you’re going to want to be able to layer underneath.
  2. Fabric: Are you looking for a bomber for all seasons or specific to one? Traditional bomber materials such as leather, wool and fleece are great for winter, whereas suede, nylon and polyester are more transitional, suitable whatever the weather.
  3. Fastening: Most bombers feature a zip fastening. To get the most out of yours, try to find one with either a snap fastening at the collar or a double-ended zip to give you more options when choosing how to wear it. See the style guide below if you’re unsure.
  4. Colour: Bombers look best when styled with monochrome or neutral colours. This lets the jacket make the statement and means it can easily be incorporated with whatever’s already in your wardrobe. Whether green, blue, tan or even printed, you have the freedom to choose.
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How Should A Bomber Jacket Fit?

The original bomber jacket was a military piece and had to be able to accommodate several layers of uniform and equipment underneath. For this reason, traditional bombers are slightly oversized. However, for the regular civilian uniform, this is not an issue. So to wear one in the modern day means you can afford to opt for a slim fit bomber jacket or something with a more flattering fit. The key things to look out for are snug shoulders with slim sleeves and body.

Shoulders

Look for a jacket whose seams fall directly on the edge of your shoulder. If the seam sits closer to your neck, the jacket’s too small. If it falls too far down your arm, the jacket is too big (unless, of course, it was designed with an intentionally dropped seam). If you can lift your arms up without fear of ripping the fabric, the fit is likely right.

Sleeves

Seeing as your jacket will most definitely be layered over other things, like a hoodie, for example, you want to look for sleeves that have plenty of room without being too baggy. To avoid that uncomfortable tight-sleeve feeling, look for a jacket where the armholes are slightly larger at the shoulder and bicep but then taper off as they extend down to your wrist.

The cuff should hit the bottom of your palm at the wrist-bone and should not have to stretch much when you put your hand through. If the elastic stretches a lot, it will wear out over time and become too loose.

Body

The best way to tell if the body of your jacket fits well is to try it on and check how much excess material hangs on either side of your waist and under your arms. If there are more than a couple of inches of excess fabric, it may be too bulky so the overall body should be form fitting. It’s a good idea to see how the jacket looks zipped up as well as when it’s left open, you should be able to zip up without trouble or any stretching of the fabric.

You also want to make sure the ribbed hem fits nicely around you without being too tight or too loose. The rib should not have to stretch while you’re wearing it. The jacket should be slightly cropped, landing and resting at the waistband of your trousers. In other words, it should be just above or touching your belt. This creates a flattering silhouette, accentuating your shoulders and creating the illusion of height by elongating your legs.

Types Of Bomber Jacket

The bomber jacket has evolved into numerous varieties due to its high level of versatility. They come in almost any fabric from leather and suede to nylon and denim, and even silk. Here is a brief outline of a few basic jacket materials and their properties to help you decide what’s right for you.

Nylon Bomber Jacket

Nylon or polyester fabric is probably the most common type of bomber jacket you can find. They come in a variety of colours and can be printed easily, creating a more unique look. The lightweight properties of these materials make them a good choice for layering with your outfit whether it’s warm or cold. A nylon bomber is also waterproof and weather resistant.

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Leather & Suede Bomber Jacket

Perfect for colder weather, the leather bomber is thicker and more durable than its nylon counterpart. Like nylon, it’s also waterproof which is always a plus when it comes to British weather.

Suede has similar properties to leather but requires a bit more maintenance. It doesn’t do as well with wet weather but does a good job at keeping you warm. It also looks great due to its slightly textured surface. A soft, brown suede bomber is very adaptable and a winner in the autumn months.

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Wool Bomber Jacket

The bomber of choice for winter months, wool will keep you from feeling the chill with its thick fabric and warming properties. It is also water resistant and comes in a variety of textures.

bomber jacket men style wool white shirt
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The Best Bomber Jackets

We bring you the best bomber jackets on the market today, whatever your budget. From the traditional Alpha Industries MA 1 flight jacket, to more contemporary suede alternatives; take a look below.

How To Clean And Care For Your Bomber Jacket

It is useful to know how to properly care for your bomber as it is something that can be worn over and over again and lasts no matter what season. To get the best out of your jacket follow these simple rules for maintenance:

  • Nylon – Along with other synthetic materials, they’re the easiest to clean. A cold wash with mild detergent will do the trick. After washing on a delicate cycle, hang your jacket up to air dry.
  • Leather & Suede – Use a damp cloth with a mild soap solution. Gently wipe over your jacket before rinsing. To dry, pat with a towel and leave to continue air drying.
  • Wool – They will need to be cleaned the most regularly. For best results, hand wash in cool water with mild detergent. Gently scrub the wool by hand and rinse under clean water before wringing and hanging out to dry.
  • Waxed Denim – Sponge-wipe in cold water and gently remove any stains with a soft bristled brush. To dry, leave out on a hanger.
  • Silk – It’s best to hand wash your silk jacket in cold water with mild detergent. Lightly agitate for a few minutes then rinse well. Pat dry with a towel and leave to continue air drying. You may be able to clean your silk jacket in the washing machine if the care label advises it.
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Further Reading: History

The need for a durable warm jacket arose during the First World War when most airplanes did not have an enclosed cockpit. The US army established the Aviation Clothing Board and the production of the first military flight jacket (the A-2) began. Another version of the bomber (the B-3) materialised during World War II when advancements in aerospace technology meant that the altitudes at which aircrafts operated increased. Higher altitudes called for warmer clothing and the classic sheepskin flying jacket was created.

The bomber jacket became an essential part of military life and due to its practicality, soon became prominent amongst civilians as well. A lightweight version (the MA-1) made from nylon and featuring an orange lining was the first military bomber jacket to cross over into civilisation. Europe was one of the first places to adopt the bomber outside of the US military and the jacket saw a boom in popularity during the emergence of subcultures through the late 60s to early 80s.

history of the bomber jacket men
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The English punks and skinheads wore the bomber jacket styled with cuffed skinny jeans, tucked in tees and Dr. Martens. However, unlike the military’s khaki and dark blue styles, the punks often favoured a new variety in burgundy, which updated the classic into something distinctly different.

bomber jacket men style skinhead punk black white
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Quick Guide to Styling a Bomber Jacket

  • Pair it with a monochrome or neutral palette.
  • Keep it casual with a pair of or ripped denim jeans and a simple white T-Shirt.
  • Think about the fit first! Are the shoulders snug with slim sleeves and body?
  • Don’t go down the traditional route, why not consider a fresher suede alternative.

On That Note

Needless to say that a men’s bomber jacket is a totally versatile pieces of outerwear. With all the different fabrics and colours at your disposal, you’ll be able to create endless outfit combinations. Whether you’re dressing for a casual or formal occasion, you can always count on a solid bomber jacket.

Suede is considered a higher quality fabric and gives you a smarter look. The textured surface is what brings an interesting stylish element to a plain jacket. For these types of looks, colours such as beige, stone and brown work best and you should wear it with a white or black top for maximum impact. Remember, the key is to create a neutral outfit with texture creating a clear definition between the pieces. To complete the look, simply pair with your formal shoes.

Leather and suede bomber jackets are the most commonly mixed up wit aviator jackets or the bunch. One of the main differences here is that most aviator jackets will feature an element of shearling or fur, especially around the collar. There’s obviously hybrids out there, like an aviator bomber jacket, but we’d advise keeping these separate.

For a bolder bomber jacket outfit, try a patterned bomber. Print is really developing in men’s fashion and is quickly becoming more mainstream. Men are no longer confined to just the classics and are free to venture into bolder territory.

So there you have it, proof that a bomber style jacket truly is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you can own. Regardless of season, style or what your preferred fabric is, anyone can wear the bomber to suit them. Why wouldn’t you want one? The key is in the layering. And remember, if in doubt, keep it neutral and you’re unlikely to go wrong.

Author: James Slonina

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